Basics 1: Fundamentals

Time to learn: 20 minutes

All righty.

Excel is first and foremost, a database.  This means that Excel functions primarily as a way of collecting, storing and processing information, or data.  This could be an order invoice for soiled underwear, grades for your latest test, which you hopefully passed or the prices of cars with no tyres.

Your interface, or screen in Excel, will look like this:


Let’s start at the top right hand corner.

The ‘Office Button’



The button with the Aztec looking motifs is called the ‘Office Button’.  You’ll use this to save, load and print Excel files as well as access certain customizable options.

You won’t need to know a lot about it, but what the hell.  Let’s go through all the options you’ve got briefly.

‘New’ – this creates a new Excel file, called a spreadsheet, for you to work on.

‘Open’ – this opens an existing Excel file so you can continue work on it.

‘Save’ – this stores your Excel file to the hard drive for use at a later time.  Excel comes with a host of ‘quick buttons’ that are shown on your screen so you can do the most common actions with just a single click.

‘Save As’ – this allows you to save your Excel file in a different format.  Why do you need this?  Sometimes you may need to have your spreadsheet in an older Excel format to accommodate use on a friend’s older machine or you may need to create spreadsheets with macros (macros are programmable chains of commands that perform multiple functions with a single command – MOST exciting) or even templates to facilitate you if you need to create a spreadsheet multiple times, such as when creating invoices for your soiled underwear that you still are selling online.

‘Print’ – allows you to print your spreadsheet – for the more tactile amongst us.

‘Prepare’ – this contains mostly security related functions to lock a spreadsheet (‘Encrypt’) or include security features (‘Add a digital signature’)

‘Send’ – functions contained herein mostly relate to when you need to send your spreadsheet to someone else over the internet.

‘Publish’ – this is used when you want to place your file on a sever that is being shared by your colleagues or classmates.

‘Excel Options’ – that’s a whole set of options for you to customize the way Excel looks and functions – don’t touch this unless you know what you are doing.  Which I don’t.

‘Save’ (Ctrl + S)


The button next to the ‘Office Button’, which looks like a disk from the 1980s, is the save button – you’ll use this to store your Excel files onto your hard drive.  Saving them, as it were.

It is interesting that this is used to symbolize the ‘Save’ function, as most of you born after 1990 would probably not have seen an old school diskette before.  There were several types, with the one shown actually being the smaller, ‘more advanced’ version.  Probably stored about 1 megabyte of data.  Hard to imagine, yeah?

‘Undo’ (Ctrl + Z) and ‘Redo’ (Ctrl +Y)

Undo and Redo

Perhaps one of the more important functions is the ‘Undo’ and ‘Redo’ buttons – just next to the ‘Save’ button, symbolized by a arrows, one pointing to the left for ‘Undo’ and one to the right for ‘Redo’.

Just a thought – these arrows follow the left to right conventions of the English language, with the ‘Undo’ function that goes back to your last action pointing left and the ‘Redo’ function pointing right to go to the next action if you had pressed ‘Undo’ the moment before.

Now these buttons are useful if you had accidentally erased something you wanted to keep. Then, with a click of the ‘Undo’ button, mistakes are unmistaken, words are unerased and Krypton remains unexploded.

Looking at your activity on Excel as a sort of ‘timeline’, the ‘Undo’ and ‘Redo’ buttons helps you to travel along that timeline, performing or un-performing functions at will. A sort of ‘Back to the Future’ button if you will.  How many of you have even watched that?

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